"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Obama

1/19/09

I stand writing this on a foggy street Monday night, wondering if Bush already left the White House forever, or if he’s staying the night. I heard he already had all his shit moved out – I usually stay up all night the night before moving, still packing. I guess he was in a hurry.

Not too long ago it was hard to picture this day. Remember, some people even worried there would be a terrorist attack and they’d declare martial law and the Bush reign of terra would continue. Ha ha, now we can save our paranoia for other things. God damn, I should’ve sold all those political expose books I got for Christmases. Nobody’s gonna take that shit off my hands now. I’d feel like an asshole even bringing them into Half Price Books. No more Bush documentaries either. We’re moving on.

The grocery store is draped with American flags – I don’t remember the inauguration being an event to celebrate at home before, but this year everybody’s taking the day off and getting up early. A local bakery is distributing cookies emblazoned with portraits of the Obamas, including the silhouette of a dog with a question mark over it. I drank the Obama Jones Soda but I’m not comfortable with the idea of crunching on the first family.

You know what, it doesn’t make me sad to picture Bush walking out of that White House the last time, his shoulders hunched like Charlie Brown. Did the door indeed hit him where the good Lord split him? It would only be right. And deep down I bet he knows he fucked up. He still says history will judge him. It’s a good point. We can’t be sure he fucked up until we’re all dead. Just like we can’t be sure whether or not Seagalogy will be the #1 book taught to future generations of students to understand America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Only time will tell.

You know who else thought history would bare him out? John Wilkes Booth. Worried about the prospect of “n—-r citizenship,” Booth put together a conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln and two members of his cabinet. Before going through with it he delivered a letter to the newspaper which said in part, “Many will blame me for what I am about to do, but posterity, I am sure, will justify me.” I’m sure a few of those 2 million, multi-hued citizens celebrating on the streets where Booth made his escape will spend a few moments thinking about that stupid motherfucker and how wrong he was. And then they will forget about him and watch a man with Kenyan heritage put his hand on Lincoln’s Bible and be sworn in as president.

1/20/09

I can’t remember ever sitting to watch hours of an inauguration broadcast before, but this one I got up early for. As tired as I am of hearing talking heads and interviewees say that “it’s history” (ya think?) it must’ve been incredible to be there. I thought about trying to go, but I didn’t know how the fuck I would’ve found a hotel. Should’ve tried anyway I guess.

Man, it feels so good to be excited for who the president is, instead of who he’s not. It’s not, “phew, it wasn’t the worst guy” but “HOLY SHIT, IT’S OBAMA!” As awed as we must all be by what it means for our country to have its first African-American president, this is not just the first black president. This is a president many of us believe in, people who are not accustomed to believing in the president. It’s waking forgotten feelings in us. Damn, I’m gonna enjoy the national anthem more next time I go to a baseball game.

President Obama (!!!) made a great speech. I hate hearing the pundits say which parts were most important, because I figure if anybody remembers it a few years from now we can’t guess which parts they will remember. And of course they write the speech knowing what a historical moment it is, and trying to come up with lines that will remembered. So it’s all a little forced. But my favorite part was the line about our “patchwork heritage” being a strength and not a weakness. And the part about rejecting the idea of a choice between our security and our ideals. Cut to shot of Bush. (Are his ears burning?)

Speaking of which, I cannot tell a lie, watching those bastards get on the helicopter and leave was a highlight of the festivities. Cheney looked even more sinister in his wheelchair. He didn’t give a shit. But Bush looked uncomfortable. He knew some of that speech was about him, and the atmosphere of celebration too. At some point he must’ve surveyed the crowd, which went two miles back and was prone to sudden celebratory chants of “OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA!,” and tried to convince himself they weren’t celebrating his departure. His inauguration, to put it mildly, was not as positive. Remember, there were so many protesters at the parade he had to jump into a limo, and somebody threw an egg at him.

“All this,” he might’ve asked Laura today – “It’s because he’s a black guy, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, George, they’re celebrating all the civil rights and everything.”

What really hit me most was for the first time hearing the phrase “former president George W. Bush.” I didn’t even think of that! Former president George W. Bush! I had to repeat it out loud.

Chris Mathews on MSNBC estimated 75% of the crowd was booing Bush. On the Washington mall, some dudes had a sheet that said “BUSH GET DA HELL OUT!” And he did. I didn’t know the name of that “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” song so I had to put on this instead. When I turned it off I realized the crowd on TV was singing my first choice as the helicopter flew him off to his future of clearing brush and waiting for Walker, Texas Ranger to come out on Blu-Ray.

Whew, we can all breathe now. We can close the book on that one. Doesn’t even feel like he’ll pop up like Michael Meyers after he was seemingly stabbed to death. But maybe that’s because the Bush presidency already had its perfect symbolic ending a few weeks ago. I think you can guess what I’m talking about. Bush went on what I’m sure was his last ever trip to Iraq, and he held a press conference for Iraqi reporters.

You can see why it seemed like a good idea. Before Bush invaded, Iraq was in fact ruled by a dictator. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t do press conferences. This is the new free Iraq, right? Check it out! They just didn’t know that one reporter – who had reported on the widows and orphans of the war, had been detained by US forces twice, and kidnapped and beaten by militants in Baghdad – would get up and throw one of his shoes at Bush. And then the other one.

The sight of Bush ducking two shoes was almost too good to be true. Slapstick comedy and poetic salve for the soul combined into one short Youtube clip. Before the war it still would’ve been funny – throwing his own shoes? Seems kind of random. But the same war he’s protesting, the one Bush is there trying to repair the image of, that’s the war that taught Americans that touching someone with the sole of a shoe is a grave insult in Arab culture. I couldn’t help but flash back to that day in 2003 when the statue of Saddam Hussein came down. I remember I was stuck in a hotel in L.A. watching cable news. They kept showing how the soldiers covered the statue’s face with an American flag, but then took it down when somebody told them it looked bad. Then the statue came down, they dragged it around and Iraqi children chased after touching shoes to its head, so the anchors had to keep explaining the significance. Bill O’Reilly kept saying that it was time for people against the war to admit that they were “on the wrong side of history.” Nothing personal, you know. It’s just that, this war being completely over and everything, everything is all wrapped up now and just in all fairness, you know, they should admit they were wrong.

Now it’s 5 years later, Bush never did quite get the war ended under his watch, and even that hothead O’Reilly has long since applied for a transfer to that other side of history. Nobody talks about that statue much anymore, partly because it turned out it wasn’t even a well known landmark and the whole thing was apparently staged for propaganda with the help of Ahmed Chelabi and those other crooks. But it was still an important moment because we learned that thing about the soles of the shoes, so we can fully appreciate Bush’s exit in a hail of footwear.

But by that time we had already elected Obama, and that let off alot of steam. We don’t know for sure how he will turn out, but just having him on deck took the tension out of our national shoulders. After eight years of Bush making things worse and worse and worse you’d think we’d be ready to hang him. But we’re so relaxed it’s easier to laugh at now. When he went to that summit and none of the other leaders shook his hand we could almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. Maybe it’s like when Russell Crowe caught Denzel in AMERICAN GANGSTER. Then it seemed like they’d been through so much that they became friends. Well, not quite like that.

In 2000 some lefties said that Bush winning would be for the best, because it would politicize our side, it would wake people up and make them care. And I thought yeah, that’s real easy for you to say, asshole, you’re not the minorities and working class and soldiers and civilians overseas who will suffer from what’s about to happen. And I guess we were both right. Whatever we imagined happening in foreign policy and the economy, the reality was much worse. And that’s not even figuring in 9-11 or Katrina. Everything that’s happened has changed people that were previously apathetic or cynical, myself included. For example my weekly movie column somehow turned into my occasional cathartic unleashing of political ranting. And without all of us becoming grudgingly engaged in what was going on, I’m not sure Obama could’ve happened. We would’ve gone on believing that Al Gore is not that different from George Bush and we’ll never be able to change anything and what’s the point anyway.

Things are worse than they’ve been in our lifetime, and yet we’re more optimistic than before. And we need it. If we’re going to prove our 2000 selves wrong, here’s our chance. Why don’t you finish that Obama cookie, then we’ll pull up our sleeves, raise our flags and our chins and clean up this mess.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 3:58 pm and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Obama”

  1. It’s been a while since a political post Vern, and I always enjoy them. How about giving us your thoughts on the first 15 months of this administration some time? Even though, yeah, not much has really happened so far, right?

  2. Remember when George W. Bush was the worst president ever? Simpler, more innocent times. Trump makes Bush look good by comparison, and I think Bush knows it. He seems relieved not be the absolute worst any more.

  3. I could but will not resist this opportunity. As much as I dislike Trump, he did not start and then escalate any disastrous wars or preside over a major economic crisis (I don’t count covid), an uprecedented expansion of the surveillance state, or a natural disaster the likes of Kartrina. The economy was generally great under Trump, plus, Operation Warp speed. On everything else (e.g., climate, tax cuts for the wealthy), it’s about a wash. About the only good thing I an think of that Bush did was PEPFAR, and he did try to do an immigration deal (but he also tried to privatize social security — something Bill Clinton also wanted to do!). The other great thing Trump did was expose the utter moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the GOP for what it is (vs. Bush’s santimonious posturing about “compassion,” “evildoers” and axes thereof, etc.).

  4. He actually makes Bush look smarter in comparison, which is… some kind of achievement.

  5. I don’t know, Trump is Trump, and I think he gives off less of a classically stupid vibe than an impulsive, “What the hell, let’s see how [insert whatever outrageous statement or executive action here] plays out” vibe. At least during his first election campaign and presidency, I think his effect was less for him to make himself look stupid than for him to make all of us look stuipid — especially those who failed to predict or stop him from winning the GOP nomination or the presidency and everyone who thought they could get him out of there before the end of his first term. They all looked all-caps stupid and ineffectual. In the end, the pandemic and public exhaustion did him in, but not before he took everything and everyone on a 5-year joy ride. More broadly, I can’t think of a person who has been such a successful con man for so long while also being such an obvious con man for about equally as long. His unique capacity to entrance and enrage while laughing all the way to whatever is next (wealth, tv stardom, the presidency) is truly something, and even when he “loses,” he just moves on to some other high-luxury, self-indulgent thing. In contrast, you take away W. Bush being a Bush, and I see him maybe working at or possibly running a Ford dealership at best.

  6. Not sure I agree, Skani. I don’t want to make excuses for Bush Jr., but at least acts like a grown-up. Trump may be a little smarter… maybe… but he advertises his dumbness much more loudly.

    I grew up in third-world countries where Trump-alikes are and have forever been dime a dozen in politics. Silvio Berlusconi would be a better known, more mainstream comparison.
    Trump’s ‘breakthrough’ was to just be his venal, shameless, infantile self in politics in the first world where no one knew how to contain him since everyone is expected to at least be a little discreet about being a lying asshole and be corrupt along established channels. I don’t think he planned to just walk over everyone else by ignoring unwritten rules, he was just his own self and it worked. That’s not intelligence, it’s a functional type of stupid. And that it in effect kind of broke the world is mostly on us (as you said), but it’s definitely not due to him being smart.
    We need to stop gauging intelligence based on worldly success or rich peoples’ failure to fail, however tempting that may be. It’s been shown time and time again to not be a good metric. Trump is the poster boy of failing upwards.

  7. I don’t think I disagree with any of that. If we are talking classic cognitive ability, I suspect Trump and W are in roughly the same category, which is about average. I also think that, as this discussion zigs and zags, we can find that we are talking about an ambiguous and moving target — are we talking about personal character, nasty words, intent, civility, actual cognitive ability — or what? Kind of thing. In any case, I think we can agree that Trump is a bad person and not a policy wonk — he’s not a savior or some secret polymath or policy genius in any conventional sense. That said, I will defend the claim that Bush’s recrod is objectively way worse than Trump’s by the metric of personally sending people to their deaths, mismanaging the economy and federal budet, or disaster response. And I do think Trump has a kind of 9 lives cunning, which is how he has been able to con and re-invent himself so much over the years. There’s a substantial luck factor, to be sure, but you don’t get past that many guardrails in business, pop culture, and politics over an almost 40-year period purely by accident — no one has that much luck. Trump’s “intelligence” is that of a carnival barker or mob boss perhaps.

  8. Sorry, I’m splitting hairs, and you’re probably more correct than I am. He’s cunning, for sure. But I sincerely think most of his ‘successes’ and resilience are due to his shamelessness (and multi-millionaire father) rather than any sort of plan or more developed strategy. As for damage… again you’re probably right, but it’s not that clear from the outside. Whether anyone admits it or not, the rest of the world do take notice of what the USA does. And he’s just shown that you can get away with anything as a president even in developed democracies. It’s scary to think what will happen when more intelligent folks take advantage of that. And the way he’s validated fringe elements will leave a scar.

  9. Here, again, I would agree with most of that. One difference is that I think people over-estimate the role of him being a trust fund kid. It definitely helps to have that kind of completely unearned start-up capital, and he would have been wealthy on inheritance alone. At the same time, I think he’s proven his unique talents as a con man and entertainer — there are lots of things wealth and a family name will get you, but they can’t do all the work by themselves (just ask Jeb Bush or Chet Hanks).

    As for scars, maybe? I think people focus too much on vibes (which is part of the Twitter Brain phenomenon I’ve tried to describe elsewhere) and not enough on hard metrics. It’s extremely hard to compare any single bad thing Trump was involved in (including 6 Jan) to the damage of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act and related, the 2008 recession (which helped kick off the Tea Party besides ruining countless individual lives), and Katrina. To say nothing of other things Bush tried to do, like privatizing Social Security. The fact that Bush conceded the election and displayed better manners does not give him the … W (Dr. Evil pinky) in this particular contest. Also, we need to remember that Bush’s own 2000 election victory has viewed as some fairly shady business from a democratic / electoral integrity standpoint, and his ability to get as far as he did (despite being famously inarticulate, losing the popular vote, and his status as the winner of Florida coming down to the decision of a right-leaning supreme court) was viewed as strong evidence that our politics is dynastic and rigged.

    The fact that we are re-evaluating Bush as some genteel statesmen because he observes greater personal decorum and paints nice pictures of veterans, seems like a lapse in our judgment, favoring vibes and emotions over objective damage.

  10. When I say Bush “conceded the election,” I am referring to him peacefully turning over power at the end of his second term, as well as him showing up in that little motivational video with Obama and Clinton they showed ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Bush famously refused to concede in the contested 2000 election, where the winner of Florida was a legitimately tough call that came down to a right-leaning supreme court (of “non-activist” judges, lol) intervening.

    On the other hand, in addition to the paintings of veterans, Bush did pass Michelle Obama a candy at a funeral. If post-presidency actions count, we can go ahead and add these to the win column.

  11. Re: consequences- It’s possible. Though Boris Johnson successfully used Trumpian tactics for too long, and you actually have republican candidates there who keep casting doubt on the electoral process (should they lose, of course.) Later developments are cause for optimism, but we’ll see.
    Again, don’t want to redeem Bush, however he compares against Trump, so I take your point on the tone of the conversation. Maybe it’s an apples and orange (heh!) kind of thing. Bush is dumb, Trump is thick. And they (and the smarter, more evil people they surrounded themselves with, particularly Bush) made the world a demonstrably worse place.

    To range even more all over the place, another one to lay at Bush’s feet is the devolving housing situation. The degree to which this is a factor is debatable, but real estate lobbied extensively (and successfully) to get exemptions from the Patriot act; this resulted in property investment being the a favorite way to, well, not quite launder money, but make investments in other countries avoiding a lot of the controls any other movements have to contend with. Hence tons of land developments lying empty in major urban areas, driving prices up with demand.
    So beyond a ton of other causes, Zoomers also have Bush Jr. to thank for not being able to leave their parent’s home. At least it indirectly resulted in a plot point for Gangs of London.

  12. Lol. I am not familiar with that business about the real estate, but it looks interesting — will have to look into it. The best explanation I have read re: Great Recession was Michael Pettis’s (see his “Great Rebalancing” and Trade Wars Are Class Wars”), but I am no expert on these things.

    Part of what I find myself most aggressively pushing back in some of the “woke” wars (to include all my crusty, contrarian comments on webzeit in the ~2016-present era) is that I think we are too quick to let the media and the social media decide for us what we should care about or think about (the so-called “agenda setting” effect of media), how much and how emotionally we should care about it, and then there are these weird tribal-emotional dualisms that cause us to distort how good or bad someone is, even by our own subjective standards of what is good or bad.

    For example, I think Obama was a pretty bad president, whose economic, healthare, and environmental policy instincts were well to the right of Richard Nixon’s. Bill Clinton was a righ-winger: welfare reform, prison reform, NAFTA and related, financial de-regulation, and ignoring clear warning signs about the derivatives market. And HE also wanted to privatize social security and had kind of a Coyote-Sheepdog Looney Tunes relationship going on with Newt Gingrich (his famous “triangulation” strategy). Obama’s status as an aggressive deporter is well-documented (and that is just the tip of the iceberg with his presidency), and Obamacare is a Heritage Foundation (i.e., right-wing) policy concept. What causes us to evaluate these Presidents as good guys? Partisan tribal identity and not much more. It is this same kind of vibes-brain that allows George W. Bush to rehabilitate an image well-earned by 8 years of disastrous policy by painting pictures of veterans, giving Michelle Obama a piece of candy in a viral moment, and not being Donald Trump. It’s utterly deranged the way we demonize some and go gently on others, largely based on repetition of extremely crude cues with highly emotionalized language or imagery in the context of a social echo chamber.

    Now, having said all that, I think Biden has been the most effective President of my entire adult life already and as long as he does not screw it up. I would not have predicted this based on his prior political/legislative history (which was very Bill Clinton-esque).

  13. The results of having a two-party political system where ‘lib’ politicians are usually right of center, and everyone else that much further west right, and where a whiff of socialism is cause for panic; it all looks crazy from out outside. And I’m currently speaking from a country with its own various shitstorms, dumbasses, entrenched neoliberal assholes, and where the failure of a fringe left idiot (who couldn’t have inflicted as much damage as what the cons ended up doing) left us with two flavours of conservatives. Again.
    I never liked Clinton, and honestly don’t know enough about Obama (my image of him is the typical establishment-democrat US president… so, not great). Still would take them any time over Dubya or Trump.

    The thing is, I reluctantly moved away from my adopted country because I could see no future in a place with no sense of cultural morality or faith in democracy. So Trump and his influence is a sore subject for me in that particular sense, and I do think this will have a long-term impact all over the world. On the other hand I don’t like painting him as an evil mastermind or anything, because I do honestly think he is an idiot. Maybe that’s a good thing, otherwise he might have done a lot more harm. He certainly did enough.

    Re: woke culture and all that, they have some noxious effect but on the whole I think it’s a net good that won’t last long (as in, its fringe elements give ammo to a silent majority that just want to go back to ‘how things were’.)
    We’re still reeling from the impact of the social medias, mass group-think and all that. We’ve yet to adapt to them effectively. In that sense, I think the best book I’ve read on this is not political, or even directly related to cultural/ideological issues: Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, fast and slow, which gives you a framework from which to analyze how biases and lazy thinking lead you to accept things you maybe wouldn’t if you actually thought them through. Just an amazingly useful book in general.

    To our host and everyone else, apologies for the spam.

  14. Obama was lucky to pass what he did with Obamacare…he just BARELY got that. He wasn’t going to get some Bernie Sanders stuff, which is good that he didn’t try because while Medicare for everyone polls well in general, once they find out what Bernie would do, it polls like shit. And you have have to start somewhere, so doing a half version is good…cause suddenly people don’t want it to go away. Then you can see about adding or doing more.

  15. Are we still doing that thing where we pretend that Richard Nixon — who had nothing but contempt for environmentalists, vetoed a minimum wage bill, vetoed national day care, tried to veto the Clean Water Act, and proposed privatising Medicaid — was to Obama’s left? Okay, then.

  16. Nixon’s record of environmental accomplishment is easily the most impressive of any president (including the creation of the EPA, as well as Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act). Nixon also seriously entertained an initial univesal basic income (the Family Assistance Plan), and your characterization of his healthcare reform ideas is missing a lot.** This is also when we got OSHA. Whether Nixon’s was personally emotionally invested in these things is beside the point: He signed them into law. Was he a great man or a great president? No and no, but he objectively passed more aggressive, environmentally progressive legislation than any subsequent president, and he did actively propose basic income and healthcare reforms that would have been considered progressive by current standards. In particular, your characterization of Nixon’s healthcare plans is misleading.

    It’s not a question of him and Bill Clinton being good or bad people, but they ran as hope and change candidates but did not deliver much in the way of economic or environmental wins and really did nothing in the way of socially or culturally progressive policymaking either. You can blame the surrounding environment or the Overton window or whatever, but I don’t really accept that. Meanwhile, Biden came in under fairly awful circumstances: razor-thin margins, a poltical and legislative climate that is supposedly more toxic than ever, and no mandate at all except to not be Trump. And he delivered quite a bit in his first 18 months in what we are told is an even more toxically polarized environment than ever. Including the most aggressive environmental legislation since … Richard Nixon.

    **From the Nixon Wikipedia page:
    The following month Nixon proposed the Comprehensive Health Insurance Act, consisting of an employer mandate to offer private health insurance if employees volunteered to pay 25 percent of premiums, replacement of Medicaid by state-run health insurance plans available to all with income-based premiums and cost sharing, and replacement of Medicare with a new federal program that eliminated the limit on hospital days, added income-based out-of-pocket limits, and added outpatient prescription drug coverage.[75][78] In April, Kennedy and House Ways and Means committee chairman Wilbur Mills introduced the National Health Insurance Act, a bill to provide near-universal national health insurance with benefits identical to the expanded Nixon plan—but with mandatory participation by employers and employees through payroll taxes and with lower cost sharing.[75] Both plans were criticized by labor, consumer, and senior citizens organizations, and neither gained traction.[79]

    See also:

    Lessons on Universal Coverage from an Unexpected Advocate: Richard Nixon

    Debate continues about how best to reform the U.S. health care system, including over the roles that federal and state governments and private insurance markets should play in providing coverage. As policymakers explore options to expand on recent coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they might benefit from familiarity with historical precedents.

    Nixon proposed that all employers be required to offer insurance to full-time employees. Employers and employees would share the premium “on a basis which would prevent excessive burdens on either,” a novel idea that would have extended coverage to a large proportion of working Americans. There would be a limit on total medical expenses per covered family, and the federal government would provide temporary subsidies to small and low-wage employers to offer employees affordable insurance.

    For low-income people, the unemployed, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups, Nixon proposed a federal program with uniform benefits that would replace Medicaid. He wanted to peg premiums and out-of-pocket expenses to the income of the individual or family, so that a working family earning up to $5,000 (around $26,000 today) would pay no premiums at all. People with higher incomes could buy into this plan if they could not otherwise get coverage. In effect, Nixon proposed a buy-in to a federal, Medicaid-like program, rather than to Medicare, as Hillary Clinton proposed during her 2016 presidential campaign.

  17. I don’t know about all of that stuff, but I know about one specific…Nixon actually vetoed the Clean Water Act and after he did that, Congress got together the next day and voted to override. Nixon gets credit for shit he didn’t do.

    Don’t forget too, under Obama we not only got a new national healthcare plan, but also the gay marriage thing, as well as military rule overhauls…no don’t ask don’t tell shit. Student loan forgiveness. Lots of new carbon and solar regs as well as drastically increasing them…not all of this stuff is sexy so people don’t know.

  18. Thanks, Muh. I stand clarified on the fact that, although the Clean Water Act passed during his presidency, he did veto it. Nevertheless, the amount of enivronmental stuff that got done during the Nixon presidency (including the creation of the EPA) is not merely substantial but truly unprecedented, and the idea that he was simply passive or antagonistic to it does not hold water.

    More to the point, I am not here as a Nixon apologist. The point is that Clinton and Obama did little to advance an economically progressive agenda, but instead adopted policies previously regarded as center-right neoliberal. In Clinton’s case this is well-documented in terms of his renomination of Greenspan, his selection of Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary, financial de-regulation legislation he signted into law (the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), conversion of AFDC to TANF, NAFTA. These sorts of things were an explicit outgrowth of his “New Democrat” / “Democratic Leadership Council” model and was famously expressed in statements like “the era of big government is over.” In Obama’s case, he brought back in Rubin/Citigroup acolytes to handle the bailout, as a result did virtually nothing to punish or reform the financial sector (the Dodd-Frank act is widely regarded as a nothingburger), sought center-right market-oriented approaches on healthcare and various other things, pre-conceded that he was willing to make cuts to medicare and social security and medicaid, and generally got very little done in 8 years, much of this being attributed to his aloofness and lack of engagement with congress (including the Democrats in congress).

    The rise of Bernie Sanders and the relatively greater legislative (and bipartisan!) efficacy of Biden in an extremely challenging legislative environment undercuts the very generous and very reductive (indeed, virtually circular) assumption that whatever Obama proposed or accomplished was the most ambitious thing that possibly could have beeen accomplished.

    My focus is on progressive economics and climate action, but I will go ahead an take a brief detour into some other aspects of Obama’s center-right-ness. Recall also that he was initially opposed to gay marriage (Biden was famously leaning forward on this issue, which arguably shamed Obama into coming around, only once it felt safe). He also escalated the prosecution of journalists under the Espionage Act, and he famously did not pull us out of Afghanistan or close Guantanamo, and he deported more people than Trump. And the drone stuff is pretty familiar. He also substantially escalated U.S. domestic fossil fuel production.

    I am not here to defend or criticize each of these individual actions (some of them might have made good sense at the margin, even if they were un-popular or un-progressive), but it is simply the case that these guys get a pass because they are handsome, articulate, and give off comparatively social-progressive vibes. And I also will say that they both are demonstrably more stable and competent than a W. Bush as far as not actively initiating or falling into disaster after disaster, but that is such a low bar and speaks more to basic competence than to any particularly heroic accomplishments on behalf of the 99% and especially the poor.

    But, yes, Obamacare is certainly one lasting and good thing. I will concede that point.

    The Origins of EPA | US EPA

    List of links to documents shedding light on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's birth and early years

    Clean Water Act becomes law

    The Clean Water Act becomes law on October 18, 1972. After centuries of reckless treatment of American rivers, streams, lakes and bays, the landmark act

    W.H.: Biden forced Obama's hand

    Officials say announcement was slated for summer.

    Trump isn't matching Obama deportation numbers

    But there have been more deportations so far than any other full fiscal year of Trump's presidency.

    Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data

    As Donald Trump assumes office today, he inherits a targeted killing program that has been the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy over the past eight years. On January 23, 2009, just three…

  19. The fossil fuel stuff always bugs me though…nice that Biden has lessened what we do here. Thing is, then he has to go to Saudi Arabia and beg them to increase production. Let’s face it…the shit’s gonna get fuel, it’s just where is it gotten from? So why not here? We need to transition to different energies, but it’s not like we’re ready for it now.

    And if you’re not gonna ding Nixon for not necessarily being for the environment (didn’t he hate environmentalists) as long as it got done, you can’t ding Obama for saying he was willing to do Medicare cuts or the gay marriage thing cause in the end that didn’t matter. Nixon did do a lot of that stuff for sure, but he had to…the 70s were absolutely primed for that stuff and he wanted to get re-elected. I know motives don’t matter, but then they don’t for Obama. And shit really hope not for Biden considering some of the stuff he’s done in the past.

    I do think Obama deported more, but we tend to see spikes in rates when a Democrat is in office. More come, more are going. And like drones…Obama did do more drones, but he lessened the troops. But it took Biden just not giving a fuck and actually pulling them out. I do agree Obama was more of a centrist, but I think he did a good job.

  20. But I do agree! It’s insane what Biden has gotten accomplished, and not some bullshit executive actions either. Now if only he can rack up a few Supreme Court justices.

  21. Yeah, I was pretty amused to see Skani giving Nixon credit for the Clean Water Act immediately after I’d mentioned that he tried to veto it. The House and the Senate were controlled by Democrats throughout Nixon’s entire presidency. The Clean Water Act was passed, eventually, with a veto-proof majority. So did the Clean Air Act. So did the National Environmental Policy Act, which expanded federal environmental oversight to the point where Nixon reorganised the bureaucracy by creating the EPA. Meanwhile, Nixon was fuming in private to Russell Train about how all the environmental laws wouldn’t let him chop down the forests near his golf course. It’s hilarious to see him held up as an environmentalist.

    It’s also hilarious to see Skani comparing Nixon’s proposed Medicaid replacement — which would obviously privatise an existing part of the social safety net — with Clinton’s suggested Medicare buy-ins, which would have expanded coverage. Nixon himself boasted about this! “My proposed plan differs sharply with several of the other health insurance plans which have been prominently discussed. The primary difference is that my proposal would rely extensively on private insurers.” This is why the unions rejected it.

    In any case, how much effort did Nixon put into seeing his plan enacted? Zilch. He was just hoping that it would grab a few headlines to displace the Watergate scandal. He was working with a Congress substantially to his left; if he’d really been keen on all this progressive policy, some of it would have been enacted, no?

  22. To be sure, you are bringing nothing but top-shelf Nixon policy comedy.

    Nixon has a demonstrably stronger record on environmental and economic policy, and I would direct a fair-minded inquirer to the links I have shared (and to whatever other exploration of the topic they wish to do). Also, once again, your characterization of his healthcare policy is deeply misleading. Also, the material about buy-ins was a direct excerpt from the web-page listed above it.

    I look forward to more insights and devastating gotchas — but, above all, more hilarity! — as you dumpster dive through my many substantive, fact-based (and mainstream link-backed) points in search of more top-notch gotchas.

    In the meantime, here is Breitbart — apologies, the University of Michigan — with the following hilarious observation:

    “Looking at this comparison of the plans, Freed says, it’s easy to see that Nixon’s proposals were far more “liberal” than what passed under the Affordable Care Act during President Obama’s first term.”

  23. The linky thing is misbehaving but can be found by googling “nixoncare-vs-obamacare-u-m-team-compares-rhetoric-reality-two-health-plans”

  24. Skani, the start and finish of your argument that Nixon was an environmentalist is that he was president while a Democratic Congress was passing environmental legislation with huge majorities, and sometimes he didn’t try to veto it. He did no more that any president at the time would have, and less than most.

    I have no quarrel with the Commonwealth Fund’s observation that Nixon’s plan and Hillary Clinton’s both used buy-ins. Of course they do. I was disagreeing your own use of a few superficial parallels to paint over the fact that Clinton wanted to expand coverage and Nixon wanted to privatise it. The U. Mich. paper you talk about is hidden behind a paywall, so I can’t see the details; I’m curious as to how it deals with the fact that Nixon’s plan had no community rating, or the vast differences between their treatment of Medicaid, the most important part of the Affordable Care Act. But all that’s kind of beside the point, because again: Nixon did not actually want this plan to be enacted. He just wanted something he could point to when Ted Kennedy talked about his own healthcare plan, or when he wanted to change the conversation away from Watergate. So what became of his plan in the end?

    “In the end, Nixon backed out after receiving pressure from small-business owners and the American Medical Association.”

    Steven Pearlstein - Kennedy Saw Health-Care Reform Fail in the '70s; Today's Lawmakers Don't Have To

    Asked about his greatest regret as a legislator, Ted Kennedy would usually cite his refusal to cut a deal with Richard Nixon on health care.

    And as long as we’re talking about environmental and economic policy, Supreme Court nominations should be taken into account, no? And Nixon’s nominees were Burger, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist; Blackmun eventually moved to the left, but the other three were horrible. (And Blackmun was Nixon’s third choice, after Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell were turned down by the Senate for being white supremacists.)

    Looks like we’re all giving links, so here’s a welcome corrective to the spate of revisionist nonsense about Nixon’s supposed progressive instincts:

    Stop Psychoanalyzing Richard Nixon

    Many authors have been tempted into writing revisionist histories of the 37th U.S. president, but these counterintuitive takes often do not hold up under closer scrutiny.

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